On Switzerland’s Mount Pilatus, a Writer Remembers

“YOU’RE GOING BY yourself?” my mother asks me on the phone from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “To Pilatus?”

I can hear the concern in her voice. It is a January morning, and I am taking a break from working on my novel at the New York Public Library. From the window overlooking Fifth Avenue, I can see pedestrians rushing past, scattering figures hunched against the cold. I was 12 when my mother took me to Mount Pilatus in Switzerland, but the trip didn’t go as planned. Despite the decades that have passed, she still associates the mountain with panic. For a moment, both of us pause and the years collapse. Suddenly, I’m a young girl gripping her hand as she looks for help. How easy it is to be swept back into childhood when speaking to your parents, to feel the past accumulate force until it’s all you can see.

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